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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 21:49 GMT
White House security scares
Security Service agents at White House after shooting incident
Security agents patrol the grounds with guns drawn
By Kevin Anderson in Washington

Security has been greatly increased around the White House over the past decade.The increased security was the result of several shootings near the White House, a shooting at the Capitol in 1998 and the Oklahoma City bombing.

The 1998 shooting came after tightening security due to threats at home and abroad. In that shooting, gunman Russell Eugene Weston killed two policemen.

He has never gone to trial because his doctors have said that he is too mentally ill.

Key White House security threats
May 1995: Gunman shot after he scaled White House fence
Dec 1994: Long-range shots hit White House
Sep 1994: Light plane lands on White House, pilot dies
Mar 1984: Man with sawn-off shotgun arrested outside White House fence
Oct 1978: Man in karate suit scales fence, slashes security guard
July 1976: Taxi driver shot dead after entering White House grounds
February 1974: Army private steals military helicopter, lands on White House lawn
One of the most significant increases in security in the past decade came when a section of Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side of the White House was closed to traffic in May of 1995.

President Clinton ordered the street closed a month in accordance with a review of White House security, after the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Three days after the street was closed, a gunman scaled the fence at the White House. Secret Service agents stopped the man 30 yards from the East Wing.

The incident came five months after police shot a homeless man with a knife outside the White House. The shooting proved fatal.

Three days earlier, at least four shots were fired at the White House. One shot went through a dining room window, and other bullets were found near the president's bedroom window. No one was injured.

In October 1994, a man pulled a semi-automatic rifle from his trench coat and fired 27 rounds at the White House before being restrained by Secret Service agents and bystanders.

A month earlier, a man crashed a single-engine plane on the South Lawn of the White House. He died in the crash.

The Reagan years

These were the most significant security threats at the White House since the early 1980s.

Following President Ronald Reagan's second inauguration in 1985, a man entered the White House with the Marine Band. He wandered around the building for 15 minutes before being arrested.

In 1985, a man who had made threats against President Reagan drew a sawn-off shotgun as guards approached him outside the White House. The security agents shot him in the arm and arrested him.

Gate crashers

Some of the most colourful incidents occurred in the 1970s.
The White House fence
Several people have tried to climb the fence at the White House

On 3 October 1978, a man wanted to persuade President Carter that having the words "In God We Trust" on US currency was blasphemous.

He donned a white karate suit, and with a Bible tucked under his arm, he scaled the fence. When he was confronted 15 yards from the fence line, he pulled a knife from the Bible and slashed one security officer in the face and another in the arm.

Uniformed Secret Service agents surrounded him and disarmed him with long batons. They forced him to the ground and arrested him.

In July 1976, a local taxi driver climbed over the White House fence with a one metre (three foot) length of pipe. An officer drew his revolver and ordered the man to stop.

He raised the pipe, threatening the officer, and continued. The officer shot the man in the chest, and he later died.

Several people also tried to drive or in some cases fly onto the White House grounds.

In 1976, a man tried to drive a pick-up truck through the recently reinforced north-west gate. The gate held, but the front of the man's truck was flattened.


On Christmas Day 1974, a man crashed his Chevrolet Impala through the north-west gate. The man claimed he was the Messiah.
US Marine barracks
Concrete barriers were installed around the White House following bombings in Beirut in 1983

He had strapped flares to his body, which he described as explosives to Secret Service agents. He threatened to blow himself up. He surrendered after four hours of negotiations.

Few people have tried to crash through the fence, as opposed to the gates, at the White House, and it has become all but impossible after 1983 when concrete barriers were installed following the bombings in Beirut.

Between 1990 and 1992, the temporary concrete barriers were replaced with concrete bollards.

Stolen helicopter

Planes, pickups and Impalas are not the only vehicles that people have used to try to breach White House security.

In February 1974, an army private stole a helicopter from Fort Meade Maryland. He passed over the White House and went to the south grounds where he hovered for about 6 minutes. He briefly touched down about 50 metres (150 feet) from the West Wing.

Guards did nothing, unaware that the helicopter had been stolen.

The man piloted the helicopter aware from the White House before being chased back to the area by two Maryland State Police helicopters.

He returned to the White House grounds and lowered himself to about 10 metres (30 feet) above the ground. Guards fired on the helicopter with shotguns and submachine guns.

The army private set the crippled chopper down, suffering from minor injuries.

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07 Feb 01 | Americas
Armed man shot at White House
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